Gita 02.31 – Dharma is not a blanket injunction but an individualized customization

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Published on Dec 14, 2014

Bg 2.31
sva-dharmam api caveksya
na vikampitum arhasi
dharmyad dhi yuddhac chreyo ’nyat
ksatriyasya na vidyate

Translation:
Considering your specific duty as a ksatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation.

Purport:
Out of the four orders of social administration, the second order, for the matter of good administration, is called ksatriya. Ksat means hurt. One who gives protection from harm is called ksatriya (trayate – to give protection). The ksatriyas are trained for killing in the forest. A ksatriya would go into the forest and challenge a tiger face to face and fight with the tiger with his sword. When the tiger was killed, it would be offered the royal order of cremation. This system has been followed even up to the present day by the ksatriya kings of Jaipur state. The ksatriyas are specially trained for challenging and killing because religious violence is sometimes a necessary factor. Therefore, ksatriyas are never meant for accepting directly the order of sannyasa, or renunciation. Nonviolence in politics may be a diplomacy, but it is never a factor or principle. In the religious law books it is stated:

ahavesu mitho ’nyonyam
jighamsanto mahi-ksitah
yuddhamanah param saktya
svargam yanty aparan-mukhah

yajñesu pasavo brahman
hanyante satatam dvijaih
samskrtah kila mantrais ca
te ’pi svargam avapnuvan

“In the battlefield, a king or ksatriya, while fighting another king envious of him, is eligible for achieving the heavenly planets after death, as the brahmanas also attain the heavenly planets by sacrificing animals in the sacrificial fire.” Therefore, killing on the battlefield on religious principles and killing animals in the sacrificial fire are not at all considered to be acts of violence, because everyone is benefited by the religious principles involved. The animal sacrificed gets a human life immediately without undergoing the gradual evolutionary process from one form to another, and the ksatriyas killed on the battlefield also attain the heavenly planets, as do the brahmanas who attain them by offering sacrifice.

There are two kinds of sva-dharmas, specific duties. As long as one is not liberated, one has to perform the duties of his particular body in accordance with religious principles in order to achieve liberation. When one is liberated, one’s sva-dharma – specific duty – becomes spiritual and is not in the material bodily concept. In the bodily conception of life there are specific duties for the brahmanas and ksatriyas respectively, and such duties are unavoidable. Sva-dharma is ordained by the Lord, and this will be clarified in the Fourth Chapter. On the bodily plane sva-dharma is called varnasrama-dharma, or man’s steppingstone for spiritual understanding. Human civilization begins from the stage of varnasrama-dharma, or specific duties in terms of the specific modes of nature of the body obtained. Discharging one’s specific duty in any field of action in accordance with the orders of higher authorities serves to elevate one to a higher status of life.

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